Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Games Indians Play

A book titled Games Indians Play Why we are the way we are? caught my eye in Chennai Airport on my recent trip to India. Had never heard of the author V. Raghunathan, and would have dismissed the book as another 'thinker' ranting about the Indian society, but for the "Foreword by N.R. Narayana Murthy" line on the front page of the book.

Unlike a reviewer of the book implying that it is a book to be finished in one Sunday afternoon, I took almost a month to finish reading the book. It turned out to be worth a read, as it provides a framework based on concepts in Game Theory to understand various aspects of the Indian society, which are overwhelmingly negative.

Explaining the Simple and Iterative Prisoner's dilemma to begin with, the author makes a forceful argument that the basis for a course of action should come from within and not from outside. And only when majority of the Indian population understands this would the self-defeating Defect-Defect behaviour present in almost every aspect of 'Indian-ness' would be transformed to a sustaining Cooperate-Cooperate behaviour. The author also makes an interesting parallel between the discources between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefields of Kurukshetra and the concepts of Game Theory, concluding that the Cooperate-Cooperate behaviour is nothing but everyone following Dharma as elucidated by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

I would recommend it to anyone who has asked themselves at any point in time : "Why are so many things wrong with India? How can things be improved?"

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